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Harrowing repeats of history in Jharkhand mines

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  • Rob McGee
    Harrowing repeats of history in Jharkhand mines September 30, 2005 Ranchi: Another mine accident has occurred. Ten more hapless people who had taken to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2005
      Harrowing repeats of history in Jharkhand mines
      September 30, 2005
      Ranchi: Another mine accident has occurred.  Ten more hapless people who had taken to working in an illegal coal mine in Jharkhand to make two ends meet have died. But no lessons have been learned.

      If one goes through the history of mine accidents in India, most have occurred due to the indifferent attitude of coal companies. The highest number of deaths has taken place in illegal mines, often due to inundation.

      But safety measures remain only on paper. The death of 10 illegal miners, mostly women, in Rajrappa colliery of Central Coalfield Limited (CCL) Thursday is just the tip of the iceberg.

      According to coal companies, more than 1,300 miner deaths have occurred over the years, of which 827 were in illegal mines. Over 500 died when mines got inundated.

      Coal companies often carry out illegal mining in collision with police. In Jharkhand, three coal companies operate besides Tata - CCL, Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) and Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL).

      "We have several times informed police about illegal mining, but no action is taken. Anyone can find illegal miners carrying coal in colliery areas," an official of CCL told IANS on condition of anonymity.

      Some say illegal mining is going on at over 200 abandoned mines of the state.

      Former union coal minister Shibu Soren has demanded action against CCL and police for Thursday's mine accident. "Illegal mining takes place due to the collusion between police and coal companies," Soren said.

      The first big mine accident took place in 1912 when 23 miners lost their lives in Phuladitand colliery due to inundation. Perhaps the worst mine accident in India took place in Chasnala in which 375 miners were killed again due to flooding from water from nearby abandoned mines.

      In June this year, 14 miners lost their lives in Basgaraha mines of the central Saunda project of CCL. In February 2001, 29 miners lost their lives at the Bagdigi mines of BCCL.

      The Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) was constituted to suggest safety measures. But its suggestions are hardly taken into consideration by coal company officials.

      In underground mines, DGMS has suggested erecting coal pillars and leaving a 40-meter wall between two mines. But in most mine inundation accidents, these norms were flouted.

      When Shibu Soren was coal minister he mooted a plan to legalise illegal mines.

      "If illegal mining is legalised, it will fix responsibility on the contractors who get coal extracted from the abandoned mines," Soren had told IANS.

      Whenever mine accidents take place in abandoned mines, police register cases against the dead people. Generally the relatives of dead illegal miners take away the bodies to escape the wrath of police.

      Thursday's accident took place due to vibration of machines on the upper sides, which made the roof collapse. According to eyewitnesses, villagers took away seven bodies to avoid police action.

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